Staring at the Renault 5 GT turbo’s squat, neat but strangely pugnacious little form, I suddenly realised that there was a whole generation in danger of missing the point here. I was thrilled, desperate to have a go in it and send it round the track, but I could easily picture the blank, incomprehending faces of younger drivers staring at it and wondering what the fuss is about.
I’m talking about the generation growing up unfamiliar not only with vinyl records, but even with CDs. To the mp3 generation (and, yes, I use an iPod too, but that’s not the point), the little Renault is just an ageing hot hatch from a time before NOS and carbon fibre. Why, then, can it raise the hairs on the back of the neck of those of us who knew it when it was new? Simple, one word: turbo.
In 1985, when the first-generation Renault 5 GT turbo arrived, the word still quivered and vibrated with potency. Pens, mugs, school rulers: all were emblazoned with the legend. Stitch ‘turbo’ onto a woollen tank top, sell it on a market stall, and any young man without one would be ostracised and become a glue-sniffing loner talking to himself in the street within weeks.
Words: Richard Hammond
Pics: Justin Leighton
This feature first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine